I turned 29 a few days ago. Not much excitement comes to mind when you tell someone you’re 29. For the most part, you start your countdown to 30. I’m actually one of the last of my friends to hit this age so sometimes I feel like I’ve been this age for awhile now. Honestly to me, age really is nothing but a number. But with this being my last year of my 20’s, I do feel like there are some thoughts I’d like to share, especially to my daughters. While they have many years until this day comes, there are just some things I want to make sure they don’t forget…
To my daughter on her 29th birthday,
Today is your 29th birthday. You’re probably thinking “OMG one more year til 30!” There might be a lot you want to accomplish before then. Or there might be places you want to go to. Or things you want to do. But really, know you are perfectly fine where you are in your life.
Yes, there’s still plenty to do, many places to go, and many things to experience still, but in reality, don’t forget you’ll only be 29 once. Turning 30 seems like a big deal next year, but all those things you are hoping to do will still be there even after you’re 30.
While you know mommy is big on planning ahead, I also want you to focus on YOU now. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Don’t wish you are someone you’re not. Don’t hold grudges against people you love. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t love you for YOU.
Instead focus on YOU. Whether you’re like mommy and married by now, waiting for your boyfriend to propose, or you’re single searching for “the one”, I want your main focus to be YOU. I hope that whatever relationship situation you are in, you are living unapologetically as who God made you to be.
You are smart.
You are kind.
You are thoughtful.
You are creative.
You are brave.
You are beautiful.
You are nothing short of amazing.
Wherever you are in life, I am so proud of you. Keep shining your light baby girl. And know you’ll always be my baby girl.
We’ve hit another milestone in our household. Our eldest daughter turned 4 a few days ago. For awhile I actually already thought she was 4, only cause of how articulate she is. But this past Monday it became official. And because she is now at an age where she really understands what birthdays are, we decided to let her call the shots for her birthday weekend. (But let’s be real, for the most part a 4-year-old calling the shots really means giving them choices to choose from).
What kind of requests does a toddler make when turning 4?
1. To eat her favorite Filipino sweet treat.
Our weekend started on Friday with our birthday girl making one simple request and that was to get “purple bread” a.k.a. ube pandesal. This first request was actually one she thought of all on her own. For those of you who don’t know what pandesal is, it is simply a Filipino bread roll, and ube is purple yam. So when my daughter asks for her “purple bread” she is looking for a bread roll filled with ube jam. We headed to our local Filipino bakery and got exactly what she was looking for.
2. To visit her favorite outdoor play area.
The next day we had plans in the evening to watch my mom’s body-building competition so we knew we had to have dinner right before the show. All day Zayanna had been asking to go to the park so we gave her two options for where she can play. This brought us to the new City Center @ Bishop Ranch. Zayanna loves this outdoor play area for it’s they have these giant lego sets out on their fake grass for kids to enjoy.
3. Spend a day in San Francisco.
If there’s one place I know our girl loves, it’s San Francisco. Every time we visit the city, her face lights up at literally everything around her. When she found out it was almost her birthday, she made one request. “Can we go to San Francisco and sleep in a hotel for one night?” Guys, she’s only four. Not sure where she got this idea from, but two things became obvious to me when she asked this question: 1) She must really love hotels, and 2) I was right that she LOVES San Francisco. She loves it enough to want to stay there overnight too. And again, she’s only 4, so we obviously didn’t honor her request.
Instead I gave her a few options: go to the science museum, go to the botanical garden, or go to the carousel + “pretty stairs”. While my husband and I really thought she was going to choose the garden, our little lady chose the last option so we headed to the carousel in Golden Gate Park + the Moraga Steps. It was her first time at the Koret Playground in Golden Gate Park, and I just loved how exciting the new play structure was for both of my daughters. The weather was a cool 65 degrees, the sun was shining, and our big girl was just happy all day long.
We ended the day with surprising her with a dinner with a few of her aunties and uncles. And coming home she knocked out instantly in the car. Definitely a great sign of a successful day in San Francisco.
4. Go to the pumpkin patch.
Like a true October baby, our big girl LOVES all things Fall. So I definitely wasn’t surprised when she chose to go to the pumpkin patch over Chuck E. Cheese. It was the first time our girls played together at the pumpkin patch. And it was our first time exploring in the corn maze. Something about immobile tractors and a pool of corn kernels that screams fun! A Fall season would be incomplete without a trip to the pumpkin patch so I’m definitely glad she wanted to go there for her birthday.
Safe to say our little lady is not a baby anymore. She is so fun, so smart, so caring, and SO brave. I tell my husband all the time that she is literally everything I wish I was as a child. She’s never afraid to say “hey friend, want to play with me?” and she’s always the first one to climb up to the top of the play structure. And don’t get me started on how much she loves her baby sister. The love in her heart warms my heart each and every day. There are definitely days where I can’t handle her attitude or sass, but in reality, who doesn’t have bad days and emotions they can’t control? She really is a little human. And she’s my amazing little human ❤
Happy 4th Birthday babe<3
Fun fact: she used to tell me only her dad was “babe”, but recently I’ve noticed she’ll call her dad or I “babe” too. I guess she’s finally accepted it 🙂
Anyone who knows my husband and I would tell you that we love to eat. I mean seriously, who doesn’t? One of the things that keeps our relationship together is our mutual love for the same types of food. He always jokes that he only married me because he loves my cooking, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t a joke. I ain’t even mad about it though because food is love.
Before children, our main objective when visiting new destinations was to always try as much of the local food as possible. And even with children, that is still our objective. I’ll admit it’s harder with kids to try some places without a kids menu or without kid-friendly options, but there are some times where we’re just like “screw it!” If the kids are hungry, they will eat.
When deciding on where to eat in New York City, I actually did not have trouble choosing places my kids would like. When deciding where to eat I Googled “Where To Eat in NYC for First Timers”, and most of the places I found ended up being kid friendly so it was a total win-win for us foodie parents.
Xian Famous Foods came up in almost every list of “Where to Eat in NYC for First Timers”. This fast casual chain serves affordable and delicious Western Chinese Cuisine. Most dishes were under $12, and most dishes are made spicy. I’d say if you’re not into spicy, you’re not getting the true Xian Famous Foods experience. But because our girls aren’t into spicy, we did get the Stir-Fried Liang Pi noodles for them. And for ourselves, we got the Spicy Cumin Hand-Ripped Noodles and the Spicy & Sour Dumplings.
You can say Shake Shack is NY’s version of In-N-Out Burger. I’ll admit when we first tried Shake Shack in Chicago, we were not impressed. But seeing how Shake Shack originated in New York, we decided to give it another try in it’s birthplace. This time around, we loved it! Their menu has classic fast-food items like burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, but all of excellent quality. If you’re a fan of crinkle cut fries, they got em. And if you’re a milkshake lover like myself, you’ll be delighted to see how many flavor options they have.
Out of everything we tried in New York City, this was definitely my favorite. And now I know why people say no other bagel compares to a New York bagel. I had read about many different places to get bagels from in NYC, and Ess-a-Bagel was one that came up on almost every list. When you go here, be prepared to wait. The line is long and can seem intimidating, but the wait will be well worth it. The bagels are freshly made, and they’re big and fluffy. We ordered “A Signature Favorite” a.k.a the lox bagel. What it should be called though is “The Best Lox Bagel You’ll Ever Have”.
For every trip we make we like to have a least one “nice” meal. For this trip, we choose a Momofuku restaurant because it’s origin traces back to NYC. We specifically choose Momofuku Noodle Bar because 1) the menu really called out to us, and 2) they have a “secret” kids menu. My brother-in-law joined us for this meal so we were a little ambitious with how much we ordered. But everything we tried was absolutely amazing. The shrimp bao, tuna crudo, and pork ramen were my favorites from everything we tried. Be sure to check out their specials menu too, you will not be disappointed.
When researching where to eat in NYC, pizza will always be recommended. I had a hard time choosing which pizza spot to try because there really are so many options. But when our NYC native cousin recommended Roberta’sPizza, I knew this was the one pizza spot we had to try. Like Ess-A-Bagel’s bagel being the best bagel I’ve ever had, I can definitely say Roberta’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had. They must put some magic ingredients in their sauce because we were blown away with the flavors. We ordered two pizzas, a classic margherita pizza and a sausage pizza called the Millenium Falco. The margherita pizza, while so simple, had so much flavor. I’d come back to NYC just for more Roberta’s.
Another must-do on our foodie list when traveling is trying the local Filipino restaurants. While we live in an area with plenty of Filipino food options, I like to try Filipino food when traveling to see what others are doing in other parts of the country. I choose to go to Maharlika after finding them on Instagram. The food item that made me want to go there? The Flip’d Chicken + Ube Waffles. DELICIOUS. If you’re new to Filipino food, I’d say try Filipino staples like pancit bihon, arroz caldo, and silog plates for their more traditional styles and flavors. But if you’re looking for something a little different, definitely try their version of chicken and waffles. They also have a unique and Filipino-themed bar menu as well.
Van Leeuwan Ice Cream was also recommended by our cousin NYC native cousin. The ice cream is made from scratch in Brooklyn, NY, and you can find both delicious classic and vegan flavors. Even our eldest daughter was in heaven with their vanilla. When we realized how much she liked it, we had to give her vanilla scoop a try ourselves. My chocolate fudge brownie really hit the spot, but the vanilla really is the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.
Junior’s is an all-American diner, but what they are known for is their cheesecake. With one location right in Times Square, there is no excuse for you not to try their cheesecake if visiting Times Square is on your itinerary. They have many flavors to choose from so it might seem overwhelming, but I’m sure any flavor is delicious. We were actually tempted to just get the plain cheesecake, but we decided on a slice of the strawberry and blueberry cheesecake. Our only regret is waiting until our last night to make a stop here.
If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you’re probably going to get more than the banana pudding when visiting Magnolia Bakery. Everything looked too good so I ended up getting the banana pudding plus one of each cookie flavor. If you absolutely love banana pudding, they offer the pudding in various sizes. But because I wanted to try other things, we left with a medium.
When friends heard I was going to go to NYC, Levain Bakery was the one dessert spot that was always recommended. Like Magnolia Bakery, they are a full-fledged bakery. But instead of the cakes and cupcakes like at Magnolia, you’ll find more breads. What you really want to come here for are the cookies. There are four different cookies, and we left with one of each to try them all. Our favorite ended up being the dark chocolate peanut butter. Crispy on the outside, and gooey in the inside. These cookies are worth the stop, plus they’re huge so definitely shareable.
Tip: If you’re like us and like to bring home food souvenirs for your loved ones, I’d bring home a few of the Levain cookies. The worker that helped us let us know they can last up to a week in the bags they come in.
If you’ve made it this far in the list, thank you! New York City had so many food options to offer, it was a little overwhelming deciding what to try. But for first timers, I think we did a good job knocking off everything on my list. If you’ve tried any of these places or plan to try any of them during your trip to NYC, leave a comment below. Or if you have any recommendations yourself, please share because we will definitely be going back to NYC.
And for more of our food adventure in NYC, be sure to check out our @LivNGwiththeNG‘s vlog 🙂
As I mentioned in my previous post, I plan to share more about my trip to New York City in multiple posts. Just like being in NYC itself, there is just so much to cover. Last time I shared my initials worries about traveling to such a busy destination with kids plus my first steps in planning the trip itself. Today let’s talk what to do.
Decide How Long You Will Be There
Before even deciding what to do in New York City, you need to decide how long you will actually be spending in NYC. We initially planned on doing a long weekend in NYC, but once we factored in how long it takes to travel over there from the West Coast, we figured we needed a little longer than a 4-day weekend to get the most out of traveling with our littles.
Based off the flight deals and how much time we thought we needed to see everything we wanted to see, we decided on 5 nights in NYC.
Five nights might sound long to some folks. But given we had a full travel day going there, and our last day there didn’t count, we ended up having just 3.5 days to explore since half of one of our days was for a wedding.
If we weren’t there for a wedding, I would say 4 full days would’ve been perfect.
Getting the Kids Excited for NYC
Obviously the kids have no say about where we go on vacation, but it is important to us that they know about where were going before we start the trip.
Our kids might be toddlers, but our 3-year-old is 3-going-on-13. She always likes to know what is happening and where we are going on any given day. So for a vacation, I like to prep her for what she will see when she gets there.
The easiest way to do this for an inquisitive little mind is to read them books about your next destination. Luckily one of our girls’ godmothers gifted them a book called New York: A Book of Colors. Not only does this book teach your child about colors, but it highlights all the top sights known to NYC. We read this book many times before our trip, and by the time we were on the airplane, our eldest kept saying she couldn’t wait to see the Statue of Liberty 🙂
Our Favorite Things to do with Kids in NYC
Top of the Rock
Located on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock is an observation deck with sweeping views of the city. We debated between going to Top of the Rock or the top of the Empire State Building, and ended up choosing Top of the Rock so the Empire State Building is included in the view we saw.
Being natives to San Francisco, we have an infinitive love for bridges. We’ve driven across the Golden Gate Bridge a trillion times, but have never actually walked across it with our kids so we knew we had to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It is 1.3 miles long so it was definitely doable with kids and our double stroller. We started from the *Brooklyn side of the bridge and made our way across to Manhattan.
*Before crossing the bridge, we made sure to also walk down into DUMBO to get the iconic street view photo of the Manhattan Bridge.
This attraction was not actually on our original list of todos, but luckily our cousin heard about it so we joined her and her family in on the fun. It’s name describes exactly what it is. It is a sea-themed carousel made of glass located at *Battery Park in the southern tip of Manhattan. It does cost $10/person, but it is a unique experience I’d recommend for travelers young and old.
*From Battery Park you can even get a good view of the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t actually plan to ride the ferry over to get closer to it so visiting Battery Park was perfect.
This had to be my favorite thing in NYC. We probably only saw about half of the park and were exhausted just from the half we saw. You can easily spend a full day or two exploring Central Park to take in every bit of it. The sites we saw were: Bethesda Terrace, Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, Loeb Boathouse, the Mall, Balto’s Statue, and the Central Park Carousel.
A first timer’s trip to NYC would be incomplete without even stepping a foot in Times Square. It was exactly how I imagined it: super busy and super bright. Many of the sites and guides I read recommended visiting Times Square at night and that is exactly what we did. While those without kids might go to Times Square to go shopping or watch a Broadway show, we went to just see all the lights and visit M&M World and the Disney Store.
The Disney Store
Are you even surprised I gave the Disney Store it’s own spot? As a Disney obsessed human being, the Disney Store in Times Square was a must-do on my list. Every place we visit, I always check if there’s a Disney Store because each store located in a major area will have merchandise specific to their location. I really didn’t do a lot of shopping in NYC other than buying a few shirts from the Times Square Disney Store.
FAO Schwarz Store at Rockefeller Center
Our first day in NYC turned out to be a rainy day so we actually spent a lot of time visiting some family friendly stores. My favorite store we visited truly unique to NYC was the FAO Schwarz Store. On a rainy day, you can easily spend a few hours wandering up and down their aisles. My kids and I especially loved their FAO Mart which featured Melissa & Doug grocery stores. It was like a little pretend grocery store for kids.
Washington Square Park – somewhere we’d seen in movies and wanted to see in person
Grand Central Station – loved the architecture here!
The Subway – my kids just had fun riding it everyday and very easy to use.
There were a few more sites I wish we had a chance to see so visiting NYC again is definitely going to happen. On top of everything above that we loved, we also really loved the food we tried there so stay turned for one last post on NYC where I’ll tell you all about our favorite foods we tried during our trip.
If you have any other questions about traveling to NYC with kids that I didn’t cover in my two posts, be sure to leave a comment below.
Happy October 1st! September is over, and our big travel plans for the year have finally come to an end.
A few weeks ago I finally conquered two fears I have been keeping to myself.
Being on a flight longer than 2 hours without any extra adult help (a.k.a. the girls’ grandparents, aunts, or uncles).
Traveling to a new “busy” destination a.k.a. New York City.
It’s not a secret that we like to travel with our kids, but we usually like to visit places we’ve been to before, and we usually have other adults traveling with us. To ease my worries for this trip, I made sure to do plenty of research before we stepped foot in the Big Apple. And luckily my in-laws did meet us in NYC so that made going around the city a little easier. Call us spoiled, but having the extra adult help makes such a difference. When they say it takes a village to raise kids, we firmly believe it.
When other parents found out we were in NYC, a few comments along the same theme kept coming up.
“I’ve always wanted to go to NYC, but been hesitant taking the kids! Let me know how it goes.”
“Props to you guys for taking the kids to NYC!”
“You gotta tell me how the trip goes with the kids!”
I guess I’m not the only one hesitant about bringing my kids to a “busy” destination.
Don’t let the concrete jungle intimidate you.
To ease some of the concerns others might have about visiting New York City with kids, I thought I’d share of some things I thought we’re helpful that I learned either from research prior to the trip or during the trip itself.
Because visiting NYC with kids is a lot, I’ll be covering this topic in two posts so planning doesn’t feel overwhelming 🙂
Getting to New York
When you book your flights, first thing to note is there are three airports to chose from flying to NYC: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. We flew into NYC through JFK from SFO because we got the best flight deals via JetBlue. We booked our flights about 4 months ahead of our trip and were able to get direct roundtrip flights for $218/person.
Usually we’re loyal to Southwest or Alaska Airlines, but this time around we just wanted to make sure we got the best deal. Other than a delay on our return flight, JetBlue turned out to be a great option for flying with children and all the amenities they provided eased all the worries I had prior to the trip.
Why is JetBlue great for flying with kids?
There’s a TV with free movies and shows at each seat so our kids were able to watch their kid shows while we watched a movie.
There’s free WiFi so once the kids were bored with the at-seat TVs, they were able to do more than watch more movies on their tablets.
While they do not provide a meal during the flight, they do provide unlimited snacksand beverages. And the snack options were more than the usual pretzels and crackers.
Choosing Where to Stay
When doing my research, three distinct areas of NYC kept popping up.
Manhattan (close to Times Square)
Queens ( specifically Long Island City)
Manhattan is the obvious place to stay to be in the center of all the sights and attractions, but for some may be the most expensive option especially if you’re going to be visiting during a peak season.
Queens and Brooklyn were recommended if you want to save money and don’t mind traveling into Manhattan via subway.
Because we were going to a wedding celebration in Flushing, we ended up going with the second option. I’ll admit that yes it was definitely a lot cheaper, but if I was to visit NYC again with small kids I’d definitely stick to staying in Manhattan. Staying where we did meant taking a 25-40 minute subway ride at the beginning and end of the day to get back to our AirBnB, and while that doesn’t seem too long, it definitely made the girls even more tired.
With little kids, staying closer in Manhattan and having the option to travel back to our accommodations in the middle of the day would have been a nice option to have.
Getting Around NYC
I grew up in a big city so I’ll admit that the subway did not scare me one bit. But I completely understand if you’re not from a big city, the subway can seem intimidating. Please trust me when I say, do not let it scare you! The NYC subway system has to be one of the easiest systems to follow. Even with kids in toll, it was simple to use. My eldest daughter especially loved riding it every day.
As long as you have your Google Maps app, you should be all set. Since we were there for 6 days, we ended up getting the 7-day unlimited subway pass for $33/person. Because each kid is under 44 inches tall, they rode the subway for free. Not having to worry about a subway pass for each of them definitely made riding the subway much easier. It was nice to have one less thing to think about.
Is NYC baby friendly?
Absolutely. I’m not sure why I was so worried about the city being too “busy”. The busiest place we visited was definitely Time Square, but that was expected. Other than that, everywhere else felt “regular” busy for visiting a city.
A few baby-related tips:
If your small children aren’t used to walking to much, bring an umbrella stroller. Yes the umbrella strollers are hard to push around sometimes, but they’re super easy to fold when riding the subway. If you have two small littles like us, we got this lightweight double stroller from Amazon.
If your small child still fits in a baby carrier, bring it. It’s definitely nice to have your hands free instead of holding your baby in your arms.
If you need to use Uber, Uber in NYC has a car seat option. It does cost more than a regular Uber ride, but it was definitely useful for getting to and from the airport with all our luggage.
If your child is booster seat aged, I recommend getting the MiFold Booster seat. Super lightweight and even more secure than a regular booster.
There was also plenty to see and do with our littles from Times Square to Central Park, but I’ll be covering the specifics on what to do with kids in NYC in my next post.
Til then, happy preliminary planning!
And in the meantime, follow along our first two days in NYC over at our vlog @LivNGwiththeNGs.
Something I’ve heard a million times over the last few years is “they grow up so fast“, and I’m finally understanding what that means.
Today is the eve of my youngest daughter’s birthday. In less than 12 hours, I will have a 2-year-old. I’ve been anticipating this day to come for a few weeks now, but not because I am excited she’s finally turning two, but because I’m sad my baby won’t be a baby-baby anymore 😦
Yes, she will always be my baby. But in the last few weeks, we’ve already started noticing tremendous strides in her development. It’s like her body and mind know exactly what tomorrow is so she has started developing at an even more rapid rate.
A few changes she’s gone through:
Sleeping on her own without waking up in the middle of the night (Yes, for you newer or soon-to-be parents, your kid can be waking up constantly even up to 2-years-old!)
Recognizing when she has peed in her diaper and telling us before she goes poop that she needs to poop. (Meaning she’ll be ready to potty train soon!)
Finally saying “uncle”, “auntie”, “Mickey”, and “Minnie”. Prior to this past week, she had her own baby words she used to describe those things.
All of these things have happened in just the last few weeks so who knows what other changes she’ll go through in the next month. With our older daughter, we were always so excited for her to learn something new and do new things. But with our second baby girl, it’s like we just want to pause her at this age forever.
To my dearest little Zaleah, I pray you stay smart and sweet forever. I pray your twos are more terrific than terrible, and you always let your light shine brighter than everyone in the room.
We’ll be celebrating her birthday all weekend long so look out for more birthday fun on both here and our vlog in the coming week!
And yes while I’m sad my baby is growing so fast, luckily we’ve been vlogging her life since her birth. You already know I’ll be watching this first thing tomorrow morning to relive the day.
Sometimes you need to remind yourself who you are when you are not “mom”.
First off, don’t get it twisted. I retain my identity as “mommy” 24/7. But when you are a stay-at-mom-home, or a working mom, you need a break now and then.
As a stay-at-home mom, I will admit I take these “breaks” in many forms.
Solo trips to the store
Extra minutes in the restroom (even if I’m not really going #2)
I even have the girls go to daycare once a week so I have a day completely to myself. These days are meant to be my study days, but in reality, I give them to myself so I can essentially do whatever I want.
And because I am a stay-at-home mom, my contact with other adults other than my husband is very limited. While my husband and I go on as many date nights as possible, something else I have started prioritizing are mommy-dates with fellow-mommy BFFs. In the last year I have seen an article or two about the importance of “momcations” so in the spirit of momcations, my mommy-besties and I have made an effort to have mommy dates until the day comes when we can finally take our momcation.
I’ll admit the first time I went on a mommy date, I did carry a sense of guilt with me as I stepped on to the ferry boat that would take me away from my family for the afternoon. It was not more-so that I was worried that my kids would miss me or that I would miss them, but that I was stepping away from my “full-time job”. But once I was there, with my girlfriends, chatting it up about our lives and kids, I realized that everyone takes a break from their full-time job so why should it be any different for me? And just like that, my sense of guilt disappeared.
I finally started to remember who I am other than mommy.
I am a partner, a friend, a listener, a story-teller, an advocate of kindness, a lover of positivity, a human being.
To be the best mom possible for my girls, I know I need stay true to who I am, even if it means stepping away from them for a few hours.
Recently a fellow-mommy bestie (who also happens to be my BFF of 25+ years), invited me to attend a food event in SF that only comes around once a year. I felt completely honored that I was her first choice date after her own husband. To be honest, my husband was pretty upset because he has been wanting to attend this event for years, but luckily, he was completely understanding to my need to spend time with my friend.
This was the first time in years that we had an afternoon together. And for the first time in forever, I only had to think about myself for a few hours. It was glorious.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from my latest mommy-date adventure 🙂
Fellow mommies, if you are needing that mommy-day-away. Just do it. Your kids will thank you for it later.
And be sure to catch my complete experience with my BFF during our day out with our latest vlog at LivNGwiththeNGs 🙂